Part of me has waited to post until I confirmed with my surgical cardiologist in my next post-op appointment, but it's time for me to face the music and settle into the reality of what the last month has brought. I still haven't had "my moment" if you're wondering. And, what has the last month brought, in one word? Mercy. Utter, replete, grace-filled mercy.
My procedure took around two and half hours. Once the surgical team was finished, I was wheeled into recovery while the surgical cardiologist met with Jonathan and my mom to tell them what he found. The endoscopy showed a papillary fibroelastoma (PFE). I wrote earlier about how rare they are 1 in 10,000 people or 1 in 100,00 people have them. There's still a lot of guess work from experts as statistics are shaky.
Once they cracked my sternum and a few of my ribs to open my chest cavity, Dr. Rigby put my heart on a bypass machine, slowing it down to the point that it almost stopped beating. The heart needs to be still if he is going to go cut the aortic valve and go inside my heart to remove the tumor. Once inside my heart, he saw what imaging diagnosed as a PFE, only it was not a PFE. It was a 1 cm calcified black mass that was hard as stone. When my heart stopped beating, this black stone would lie on my aortic valve, obstructing blood flow.
Most anyone who lives in the medical field knows what a diagnosis code is. It's a numerical code insurance companies use to understand what the patient's diagnosis and is most often used for reimbursement. For example, if you had the chronic kidney disease, your diagnosis code would be N18.9. More commonly, if you had the flu due to unidentified virus with other respiratory manifestations, the dx code would be J11.1.
However, my blackened hard as stone, calcified mass does not have a diagnosis code. Can you guess why? That's because there have only been 24 documented cases of this calcified mass found in the heart. The majority of which are found in autopsies. I make for case number 25 and:
I. Am. Alive.
Mercy. A sheer mercy. I'm alive. The girls get to keep their mother. Jonathan gets to keep his number one cheerleader and I get to keep living the God-given life that I have. It feels strange being rescued from something of which you didn't know you needed rescuing.
We've heard the cliche, "the devil is in the details", but that should be amended to, "God is in the details". From my first fall a month ago, to right now (receiving a phone call from a dear friend as I write this post), God has been in the details. It's miraculous, the daily miracles we receive when we have eyes to see them.
Many of my friends with whom I do life, each have their own life verse(s) that encapsulate their faith journey or is the montage for how they want to plod along God's path for their lives. While I don't know all of my friends "life verses", I do know that many of whose I do know, come from the new testament and/or are the words of Jesus. Mine comes the old testament. I know, I'm weird like that. But it's always suited me. I believe in the bridge between the old and new testament and how the old testament is pregnant with the details of a coming King, Jesus, who cracks open the new testament. I promise these details are there if you train your eyes to see them. My life verses are from Ezekiel 36:26-28:
"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statues and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave your fathers and you shall be my people, and I will be your God."
While many of you who know me, know my vices, my imperfections, my propensity to break out four letter words when I hurt, or worse for sheer shock or entertainment value, my dark-sarcastic humor, you know I'm a work in progress. You know I will always be a work in progress. You know I believe perfection only happened once, and it happened on a cross two thousand years ago and was found in a man without spot or blemish. And while, I'm always wanting more for myself and wanting my girls and husband to see a larger narrative, that life is not about us, but about the one Who made us, I cling to these verses because of the promise that is made in them. I am promised a new heart. I am promised that God will remove my heart of stone. I am promised that flesh, the word made flesh ( John 1:14) will dwell within me.
I hope you're smiling. I hope you see the connection with what God has done. In a very real and very literal way, a stone was removed from my heart. Effectually, I have a new heart. And this means freedom. I have freedom to live. I have freedom of change or what fancy church people like to call, "sanctification", the process of becoming more like a saint. Yes, God is in the details, and he loves me so much and has given me the eyes to see how intimately and personally he has loved me by making a silly "life verse", a hinging point of new reality and new freedom. I get to live life and I get to live it big. Big. Abundant love.